Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Stanford Will Help ELLs Prepare for Common Core Standards

The announcement this week that Stanford University is launching an initiative to help English Language Learners meet Common Core State Standards in math and language arts brought up some story nuggets that have been simmering in the back of my mind.

The initiative itself provides a good opportunity to look at what states and individual school districts are doing to prepare ELLs to succeed under the new curriculum standards that 46 states have adopted.

As the initiative’s principal investigator, Kenji Hakuta, points out: “The Common Core and the National Academy framework for K-12 science are going to demand high levels of language from students and teachers alike … Our current education tends to obscure the role of language, and our project will make the language that kids need to succeed academically much more visible so that it helps guide what goes on in the classroom.”

In other words, are ELLs being given the kind of classroom support they need to succeed under the new framework? As this report from the National Center for Research on the Educational Achievement and Teaching of English Language Learners shows, students learning a new language often struggle with academic vocabulary, which is key to performing well in the classroom.

One way to start researching story ideas might be to get more details about the Stanford project, which is described as partnership with “local, state, and federal educational agencies; experts in Common-Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics; developers of the next-generation science standards; and developers of new English language proficiency standards, as well as advocacy groups, publishers, and test makers.”

What exactly will researchers do through this collaboration? Will they produce curriculum guidelines? Policies? Research data?

If you are in a state that has adopted the Common Core Standards, ask the schools you cover whether they are considering programs or strategies to help ELLs–or better yet, find out if they are one of the districts that will be part of the Stanford initiative, which promises to help schools and teachers “create clear specifications and exemplars of how teachers can foster English language proficiency as part of subject matter instruction, above and beyond any English as a Second Language (ESL).”